Thinking about the holidays while going through some old pictures caused me to recall a common and typical event from those days. Big family holiday dinners always included card games — both before and after the dinner.
These were typically male-only affairs — not because the ladies didn’t know how to play, but simply because they were busy in the kitchen. It seems sexist to us now but was pretty much the norm at that time, and any man silly enough to venture into the kitchen and offer to help would have been chased out.
Since men were otherwise useless, several of them would soon be sitting around the card table, which would usually already be set up for later use during dinner as the “kids’ table”. The choice of games depended on the participants. The traditional, country side of the family leaned to euchre, while the more modern city-dwellers usually preferred pinochle. One of the rites of passage for young guys was to be included in the card games, where they usually started with the simpler euchre, graduating to pinochle after they got big enough to hold all the extra cards.
But the female members of the family would occasionally sit in. In fact, I remember one very funny game of euchre that involved a girl — one of my teenage cousins. For those who don’t know the game, you first need to envision four people sitting around a card table, and my cousin sitting at the side to observe and learn how to play. In euchre each player has a chance to accept the upturned card as trump, or pass — usually by knocking. Then each has a chance to name a different trump, or pass again. If all four players pass the second time, the hand is thrown in and redealt.
Imagine the confusion my cousin felt when she watched her very first game of euchre, and saw four people take turns knocking on the table — twice each — then throw their cards into a pile in the center, all without a word spoken. She just shook her head and said, “silly game” and got up and left.